Strategies for Relational Aggression
Friendships are an important part of life for middle and high school kids. As they enter their teen years, kids’ friendships become more about connection, rather than proximity. Older kids and teens are trying to figure out where they belong and who they belong with.
Relational Aggression, aka “Mean Girl Tactics”, damages friendships and creates a toxic environment. It’s more than just being mean. These aggressions focus on damaging a person’s sense of where they fit in. It is using relationships as weapons.
We want to take a STAND against relational aggression. Here are 3 strategies that will empower your teen, or anyone, against relational aggression:
- Assertive Communication:
Kids and teens need to learn how to stand up for themselves while being aware of how their words and actions can impact others. It is possible to be assertive while not resorting to insults or bullying behavior. We are all allowed to have personal
boundaries and it is okay to stand up for them.
Learning how to assert personal boundaries of how others are allowed to treat them can take practice. Finding a trusted adult, therapist, or school counselor can be a good way to learn and practice assertive communication.
Don’t wait for a social challenge to happen before discussing social rules, cues, and norms with your child. Regularly talk about different scenarios at home. If you are out in public and see an interaction where a boundary was either crossed or respected, make sure to discuss it with your child or teen.
- Set Healthy Boundaries:
Creating personal boundaries about the types of behavior
allowed from others is important. Work on building your child’s confidence in who they are, no matter what others may say about them.
Talk about what qualities are important in friendships. Remind kids and teens that they do not have to stay in a friendship that doesn’t respect their boundaries or have the qualities they feel are important.
Take time away from social media. Block or remove people as needed. Help your child set clear boundaries that show they won’t tolerate unkindness towards themselves or others.
- Teach Kindness, Empathy, and Emotional Intelligence:
Make friendshipS cool. Talk about the great qualities of your friends and what keeps you close.
Help kids to recognize friends who are loyal and safe. Talk to them about what relational aggression might look like.
Help kids and teens to learn that there are all different types of friends. Some will just be friendly acquaintances. Some will be close at one stage of life, but drift apart as interests change. Help them recognize that they are capable of having different types of relationships with different people, just like at home.
Remember that not everyone needs a large group of friends. Some people are happy with just one or two good friends. It’s okay to have friends in different social circles, friends with a variety of interests, and friends who enrich our lives in different ways.
Good friendships can go a long way in preventing bullying. Learning how to have healthy relationships can help your teen to feel connected to the world and others.